Hamshen region and
Hemsin, Hamshen travel tips topics
A Unique Land
PART 2: The People of Hemşin
PART 3: Migrations
PART 4: Çamhhemşin
PART 5:The Main Valley
PART1: A Unique Land
On a rare clear day, the coast between Pazar and Ardeşen offers an unforgettable
panorama of the
Kaçkar Range. Lush forested hills, covered with the ubiquitous
tea plantations and scattered farmhouses, ascend by degrees to a soaring range
of snow-capped peaks. The black horn of the
Kaçkar (3937 meters) can be seen
towering above the snowline, trailed to the west by the grouped peaks of the
Tatos (3560) and the Verçenik (3711). These are some of the highest spots that
can be seen at sea level anywhere on earth, rivaled only by a few points on the
Andes and in New Guinea. Mark your bearings at the spot where the torrential
Fırtına River flows into the sea just outside Ardeşen. The highway bridge over
the river offers the best unobstructed panorama of the Kaçkar range from the
coast. Aptly, it is also the turnoff point to enter the extraordinary world of
the Hemşin valleys.
During your climb up the Hemşin this river will be your constant companion-a
scattered torrent crisscrossing the broad valley base here, a gushing, cascading
waterfall in the forest depths or an icy streamlet trickling from under the
great Kaçkar glacier. Its persistent roar is one of the defining features of the
Hamshen", a word of obscure origin, is used in eastern Black Sea as a term for
the highlands. Hemşin proper is the large triangular region on the northern
slopes of the Kaçkar massif drained by the Firtına and its subsidiaries. It is a
unique country, a strange environment shaped by two extreme features of its
geography: rain and inaccessibility.
It is, by a wide margin, the wettest part of Turkey. It gets as much as 250 days
of rain per annum (compared to an average of 170 in 'rainy'
Rize), and a yearly precipitation of up to five meters in some places. The
result is a natural flora of astonishing wealth and diversity; a 'tropical'
luxuriance one would not normally expect this far north on the globe.
The Kaçkar Mountains are practically impassable, barring access to Hemşin on the
south. Unlike the rest of the Black Sea littoral, the north side, too, is far
too steep and forested to allow the easy penetration of coastal settlers. As a
result, the region is almost totally isolated, and has remained so through the
ages. Both the Byzantine and Ottoman states made only token efforts to assert
their authority over Hemşin; the coastal Laz clans were never able to push far
inland in their perpetual fight with the highlanders; the Valley Lords who
dominated the rest of the region in Ottoman times never managed to gain a
foothold in Hemşin.
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